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Top 10 things to bring on a trip to Cuba

With relations between the U.S. and Cuba thawing after more than 50 years of cold war, several Americans are getting ready to take their first trip to Cuba.

Like many Americans, I was very excited to get to Cuba, but once I got there I became very aware of a few items every traveler must take with them to this Caribbean island.

  1. Toilet Paper – If you have traveled to other LDC’s (lesser developed countries) you might already be aware of the prevalence of toilet paper – or um the lack thereof.  You will have toilet paper in 5 star hotels, but in most any other place, including Havana International Airport, there will not be toilet paper.  You can bring little packets of tissues if that works better for you.
  2. Cash – As a tourist you will use CUC – Cuban Convertible Currency – you can trade for this at the airport when you arrive, but you must bring cash to trade.  In general, I highly recommend not exchanging hard currency, but in Cuba ATM’s are few and far between, and those with cash in them are even more scarce.  You can trade USD, but there is a penalty attached to your exchange on USD so it’s better to bring EUR if you can.  Plan ahead and exchange everything you will need at the airport.  In 6 days in Cuba, we never found an ATM with money in it so we budgeted what we had from the airport.  You can change money in 5 star hotels but the exchange is higher there than in the airport.
  3. Sunscreen  – I brought carry on sizes of SPF 30 and SPF 50, it was not enough for me! Do not underestimate the Cuban sun. I was unable to find more sunscreen to purchase at any tourist store, nor any hotel.
  4. After sun – See #3
  5. Book(s) – With limited internet you will be quickly aware of how bored you might be, bring something to read.
  6. Headphones – see #5
  7. Snack bars – Unfortunately there is not a lot of food in Cuba, and we never came across a food stall, snack bar, or even a vending machine.  Bring these for long days in the city, late night snacks, and bus trips around the island.
  8. Things to give away – Cuban people will not ask you for money, there is not much to buy.  They will ask you for soap, shampoo, clothes, basically anything you can give them.
  9. Water bottle – see #7.  Water at tourist stations is pricey and I wish I would have brought a reusable water bottle.
  10. Steri pen – To sterilize the water in your reusable water bottle.
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